Phillips renews call for anti-crime conference

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WITH almost 400 persons murdered across the island since the start of this year, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips has reiterated the party’s position that the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) and states of emergency are not the answers to the country’s crime problem.

Pointing to the murder of eight-year-old Shantae Skyers, whose body was found in Red Hills, St Andrew, on Tuesday, Phillips charged that this underscores the need for an anti-crime plan which has broad national support.

“Once again, this (killing of Shantae) signals the levels of savagery that have overtaken so many areas of Jamaican life. The cases of domestic violence, the drive-by shootings in several communities, the killing of our children, and this blood thirst need more than just a sprinkling of zones of special operations or the scraping up of thousands of young men without charge…,” said Phillips.

“It is time we seriously bring together the stakeholders and agree on a national approach that will be both far-reaching and sustainable,” added Phillips as he repeated his call for a meeting of all stakeholders to discuss anti-crime strategies.

According to Phillips, the long-promised anti-crime meeting of stakeholders to include the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Peace Management Initiative, the church, and others must be immediately convened to hammer out a consensus against crime and violence.

“There is need for a national consensus about this issue which is without doubt one of the most serious problems that we face as a country. The private sector has already agreed, we the Opposition have agreed and other groups have agreed,” declared Phillips during a sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

He was making his contribution during the debate of a motion to extend the zones of special operations in St James and Kingston.

Phillips welcomed the announcement from Prime Minister Andrew Holness that more ZOSOs would be established, but charged this would not be enough to deal with the scourge that continues to wreak havoc on communities in Clarendon, Westmoreland, Hanover, Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, and other parts of the island.

“While we deal with the ZOSO, the only long-term solution is to take the criminals off the streets, and we know who they are, based on utterances by the Government and the security forces after the end of the state of emergency. If we need legislative enhancement to get this done, we should do it,” said Phillips.

He noted that a high level of crime has been a persistent feature of the country, with the murder rate having almost doubled every decade since Independence. The Opposition leader also expressed deep sadness about the murder of Shantae.

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